“Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkled by his blood…” 1 Peter 1:2
Often times we really don’t know each other’s stories … where we come from- our background and shaping, our “salvation story”- how we came to understand and accept all that Jesus did for us on the cross, and our “happily ever after story” – where God has taken us after becoming a Christian.
A life story can take lots of time to share- that’s why whole books are written about people called biographies! Today, I’d like to share a “condensed version” of my story, in hopes that you will better understand who I am and what God has done for me!
I grew up not far from Ames on a farm that my Norwegian immigrant grandparents originally purchased years before my birth. I loved our small, eighty acre farm, and delighted in playing with the cats and dogs, riding my bike up and down the gravel drive, climbing trees, and watching sows give birth to baby pigs. I connected with creation and looking back, I can see God’s Holy Spirit called to me through his creation.
Mine was a stable family where home, church, and patriotism were strong. Being a third born with an outgoing older sister, I tended to submit, blend in, and “keep my nose clean!” I was a good kid (for the most part!!) and my reputation as such followed me into high school. I wasn’t considered a “partier” or a “fast girl.” Honor student and musician better described me.
I had perfect attendance in my Sunday school classes (with many devout teachers), sang in the church choir, and dutifully participated in Luther League- our Lutheran high school youth group. I learned a lot about the Bible … knew the books of the Bible, the ten commandments, many Bible stories, the Apostle’s Creed, The Lord’s prayer, and Luther’s Catechism (memorized all of it and recited many parts from memory in front of our congregation prior to Confirmation!). So, in all of that, I am thankful for the Biblical foundation I received. Looking back, I can see God’s Holy Spirit called to me through his Word and his people.
It was in fact Luther League that led me to an event that would forever impact my life. Our group was invited to attend a gathering of church teens in a neighboring town. Upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to survey an attractive, college-aged couple up front, tuning guitars and smiling warmly. (Guitars in church in 1970 were cutting edge!!) My attention caught, I listened intently as this young man and woman joyfully sang and shared. Whatever it was they had, I wanted it! In between songs, they told of how they had come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It was obvious that they didn’t just know about him like me, they KNEW him!
Bible verses like John 3:16, suddenly took on new meaning as I realized that I had never personally responded to Jesus’ offer of salvation. The “world” of John 3:16 included ME! God loved ME and wanted to give ME the gift of eternal life, through Jesus’ payment for MY sins on the cross! The Bible’s message fell into place that night, and with others in the room, I joined in a prayer of repentance for my sins, thankfulness for Jesus’ gift, and asked Jesus to be MY Lord and Savior. God’s Holy Spirit came in (Ephesians 1:13-14) and I was flooded with peace and joy that overflowed into big hugs with my surprised and somewhat bewildered friends. I knew something had happened! Looking back, I see God’s Holy Spirit strongly called me, enlightened me, and drew me to Jesus that night.
Life continued on for me much as it had … same school, friends, church, home, etc., however, I found myself desiring to pick up the Bible and read it occasionally—a new thing for me. Graduating from high school, leaving home, and attending Iowa State University presented a whole new world of opportunities and temptations. I chased after what everyone else around me seemed to believe brought happiness and fulfillment—boyfriends, parties, and yes, even good grades. Yet, it all felt hollow. My roommate’s unwelcomed pregnancy and complications from her ensuing abortion (legally performed in New York), only convinced me more that none of these things offered the fulfillment I was seeking. I wasn’t satisfied and I needed to find some real answers. Looking back, I recognize that God’s Holy Spirit protected me and allowed me to taste the emptiness of following the world’s ways.
That summer, as I was home from school, I connected with some “born again Christians” in my town whose lives had been radically changed. Attending their Bible studies, I began to see how relevant God’s Word actually was. I hungrily began to read and apply it alongside my new found friends. I realized that although I had earlier asked Jesus to be my Savior, I had since tried to navigate life on my own apart from God’s help. That summer I decided to wholeheartedly follow Jesus and his ways, a decision I have never regretted. Looking back at that time, I see God’s Holy Spirit provided fellowship in perfect timing that grounded me in godly habits that have nourished and blessed me to this day.
My life from that point did a complete one-eighty! Returning to Iowa State in the fall, I joined a Bible study fellowship that later grew to become our very own Stonebrook Community church! There I met my husband Dave (another interesting story for another time!), married, went on a church plant to E. Lansing, Michigan, later moved to Maryland for Dave’s job with our national association of churches at that time, grew a family of seven children, and from there returned (surprise!!!) to Ames where Dave has pastored for almost thirty years now at Stonebrook!!! With all the twists and turns, joys and sorrows, one thing has remained constant: fellowship with God … God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the precious Holy Spirit! He has been there beside me, though all of life’s ups and downs, lovingly helping and guiding, protecting and providing, filling that void that only He can fill, and yes, satisfying me deeply.
Thanks ladies, for letting me share my story with you! I hope that it spurs each of you to share your stories with one another as well! To God be the glory!!!